The rise of nationalism under the Ottoman Empire led to a struggle for cultural and religious autonomy of the Bulgarian people.
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Orthodox Christians were included in a specific ethno-religious community called Rum Millet.
To the common people, belonging to this Orthodox commonwealth became more important than their ethnic origins.
The Bulgars are first mentioned in the 4th century in the vicinity of the North Caucasian steppe.
According to epigraphic evidence at least the aristocracy of the Bulgars was Oghur Turkic in culture and Tengrist, but it is suggested that other ethnic elements may have been part of their composition.
As a consequence, many Bulgarian colonists settled there, and later they formed two military regiments, as part of the Russian military colonization of the area in 1759–1763.